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VR: Towards more customer-centric travel experiences

Our work with VR Group as technology partner in a multi-vendor environment has helped Finland’s biggest rail operator offer better and more customer-centric experiences for both commuters and long-distance passengers.

Technologies used

  • Android
  • React
  • React Native
  • Redux
  • TypeScript
  • JavaScript
  • Node,js
  • Electron
  • GraphQL
  • Gatsby
  • AWS
  • Firebase
  • Terraform
  • Docker
  • Java
  • Kotlin
  • Spring Boot
  • Jackson
  • Nginx

The challenge

VR Group wanted to improve the experiences they offered to customers of their passenger rail traffic services - especially ticket sales for both commuter and long-distance travel. This business-critical area is responsible for almost half of VR Group’s turnover and the old monolithic system needed to be replaced. In addition to a system renewal, VR Group wanted to become a generally more customer-centric organisation better equipped to serve passengers in a changing world.

Outcomes and impact

  • Renewal of ticket sales systems realised utilising DevOps philosophy and practices

  • Customer-centric shift in mindset

  • Modern technologies and agile software development paradigms in place

  • Cloud transformation and data journey started

  • Change from big bang launches to incremental releases and constant improvement

What we did

The key was to thoroughly renew and modernise all passenger traffic ticket sales systems and channels for both commuter and long-distance travel. As a whole, it’s a business critical environment, monitored 24/7/365 and with very little room for error. We worked with VR Group to replace the old monolithic system with a modern, cloud-based system utilising a microservice architecture. VR Group employed a multi-vendor model where Futurice worked as a strategic partner - sometimes as a part of a team, other times taking end-to-end responsibility for a whole stream.

As a part of the ticket sales renewal we worked on seven different systems, starting with a transitional system at vr.fi for commuter ticket sales, soon replaced by a new comprehensive service for selling both commuter and long-distance tickets. The same paradigm was applied to mobile services - a transitional commuter ticket service was created and then replaced with a service offering both ticket types.

We worked as the technology partner in a multi-vendor team that renewed the group’s ticket vending machines. Our role involved building the robust technical infrastructure as well as consulting on how the hardware and software work together for the approximately 130 ticket vending machines VR Group operates all around Finland.

We designed the UX and worked on the technical development of a mobile Android app that functions as a sales and customer service channel for conductors to use. Together with a multi-vendor team, we also built a customer service solution used for e.g. the management and cancellation of purchased tickets.

We designed an architecture and developed a messaging platform that enables seamless context related messaging from traffic disruption messages to personalised messages to the users.

In the context of a holistic systems renewal, our multidisciplinary teams worked on a variety of areas in the different streams: building an understanding of and insight into customer needs; all aspects of UX design; front and backend development; enterprise architecture design; and product ownership.

As we embarked on the journey of radically improving the level of service we provide passengers in all our channels and employees that interact with them, we needed a dependable partner active in all its aspects. Futurice was and continues to be that partner.
Marika Schugk
Head of Digital - Passenger Traffic, VR Group

Why it matters

VR Group is the biggest rail service operator in Finland. The ticket sales system channels are some of the most business critical high availability systems the group has, accounting for approximately half of their revenue. In addition to ticket sales, these systems are extensively used to keep passengers up-to-date related departures, arrivals and delays in rail traffic. VR Group’s employees are provided with data about passengers and reservation rates.

Making sure the system delivers the level of service passengers and VR Group employees expect, dependably and securely, is imperative.

The new, modern cloud-based system utilises many of the automated capabilities for scaling, accessibility, security and disaster recovery the AWS environment offers. The sales system and related channels have to work 24/7 on every day of the year and the service-level agreement (SLA) is set at 99.9%.

About VR Group

VR Group is a Finnish state-owned company operating in the field of travel, logistics and rolling stock maintenance. The group primarily operates in Finland, but it also has operations abroad, especially in Russia VR’s passenger services offer transport services in long-distance and commuter traffic with trains and buses. VR Transpoint offers logistics services in rail and road logistics. VR FleetCare maintains, repairs and manufactures rolling stock and provides expert services related to rolling stock technology. VR Group employs 6,000 professionals, with annual net sales of approximately one billion euros.

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